The No-Thinking Zone
Sally Joe LaRue
one Spanish play. Let two overheated Italians work it over
and you have-- Trovatore --the unthinking man's opera.
George Bernard Shaw, who was not above a little melodrama
himself--and certainly no slouch in the thinking department--opined
of Trovatore that "thinking turns the story
into pure absurdity."
absurdity is sparked by the fate of an operatic Lindbergh
baby who is given the evil eye by a Gypsy who wanders into
his nursery. Or maybe the kid won a free palm reading: It's
not real clear. Because no good intention goes unpunished,
the Gypsy is given the full spa treatment--beating, stabbing
and burning at the stake--by the baby's father, Count di Luna
Sr. The crispy Gypsy's daughter makes off with the unnamed
infant. Burnt baby bones are discovered. The di Luna family
puts two and two together, coming up with well, maybe, four
point five because, after all, DNA testing is centuries away
and there's always the possibility Baby di Luna is alive.
forward twenty years. Count di Luna Jr., elder brother of
dead baby, is looking to roast Gypsy daughter Azucena on the
same fire that consumed dear old mom. He is constantly distracted
by his lust for dreamy lady-in-waiting, Leonora.
hears voices and falls madly in love with one of them, belonging
to Manrico, a Gypsy troubadour. This irritates di Luna no
end--until Leonora goes into such a swoon that she cannot
distinguish one suitor from another and throws herself at
the Count. Manrico's paper-thin faith in Leonora's love for
him is torn by her Mr. Magoo mistake. He makes a feeble attack
on the Count and them runs off to Mom who is, of course, Azucena.
Manrico licks his wounds Mom regales him with the tale of
her Mom's fiery demise and lets slip a damning detail:
It was not the di Luna baby who was incinerated, but--for
no very plausible reason--her own. Manrico begins to suspect
that--Duh!--maybe he is the long lost di
Luna The rush to doom becomes fast and furious. Leonora enters
a convent. Di Luna's soldiers are overmatched by a clutch
of nuns (!) and Leonora runs off with Manrico. The troubadour
leaves her at the altar to save Mom from the stake. Mother
and son become cellmates in di Luna's stronghold. Leonora
swallows poison to save her almost-husband. Di Luna has the
satisfaction of killing his annoying rival and Azucena gets
the final Gotcha! of telling di Luna that he has
killed--who else?--his own brother.
dissonance: men dress nineteenth-century and women dress seventeenth.
Super-sized non sequitur stage décor: A broken-down
piano? A big Bunsen burner to wake the audience up when things
get slow? A horse's head? Perhaps an homage to the racehorse
murder of Godfather Part I , which set the all-time
benchmark for revenge pranks. Lessons to be learned: When
you go to throw a baby on a fire, just take one
to avoid last-minute confusion. And: what goes around comes
around, but on planet Verdi it can be one long, strange trip.